Research Psychologist, Human Systems Integrations Division, NASA Ames Research Center
Inducted in 2009
Patricia Cowings began her career at NASA more than 30 years ago as the first African-American female scientist to be trained as an astronaut payload specialist. After working on Spacelab Mission Development-3, a simulated space shuttle mission, her experiment to study how astronauts adapt to the weightlessness of space was selected to fly on the STS-51B and STS-51C shuttle flights in 1985. This led Cowings to design an ambulatory instrument that made it easier to monitor the astronauts' physiological responses in space.
Cowings has continued to apply her space and aviation experience as the principal investigator of the Psychophysiological Research Laboratory at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. At Ames she develops non-medical methods that help astronauts adapt faster to space-induced physiological changes. Her research has resulted in the NASA patented Autogenic Feedback Training Exercise (AFTE). The AFTE method and system is used to train people to monitor and voluntarily control a variety of their own physiological responses to reduce symptoms of motion sickness and environmental stress.
Cowings has held several adjunct professorships at many universities and her work is on permanent display in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C. She engages in community outreach and mentoring programs and has been featured in several K-12 textbooks on the accomplishments of women and African Americans.